The practice of medical tourism depends on successfully informing potential patients about procedure options, treatment facilities, tourism opportunities, travel arrangements, and destination countries. The promotion of medical tourism includes a wide range of marketing materials such as flyers, booklets, and websites. Yet, there is a paucity of knowledge about the dissemination, content, and reception of these promotional materials. Drawing on a thematic content analysis of the promotional print material distributed at the first medical tourism trade show in Canada in 2009, the main purpose of this article is to identify and understand the messages and images that companies use to market India as a global destination. While researchers and news media frequently cite low cost procedures as a key determinant for international patient travel, particularly to developing nations, our analysis reveals few low cost-related images or messages in the promotional materials distributed at the trade show. To help explain this surprising disjuncture, we consider four related issues: (1) promotional materials may be designed to be circulated amongst potential patients' concerned family and friends who privilege knowing about things such as the use of advanced technologies; (2) developing nations need to portray safe and advanced treatment facilities in order to dispel potential patients' suspicions that their medical care is inferior; (3) companies may avoid making cost saving claims that cannot be fulfilled for all of their international patients, especially those traveling from developing nations; and (4) messages of low cost may detract from and even undermine messages about quality. We conclude by identifying numerous avenues for future research by social and health scientists, and by considering the implications of our findings for existing knowledge gaps and debates within health geography specifically.
Bibliographical noteFunding Information:
Our thanks to BJC and BJC for obtaining one of the two sets of promotional materials examined in this analysis. This research has been funded by a Catalyst Grant from the Canadian Institutes of Health Research .
- Medical tourism
- Thematic content analysis
- Trade in health services